Plastic Omnium appoints new CEO in management shuffle


PARIS — Plastic Omnium has appointed a new management team and revised its corporate governance, with co-CEO Laurent Burelle, the scion of his family’s company, becoming chairman of the board, and Laurent Favre, a veteran automotive industry executive, stepping in as the sole CEO.

Jean-Michel Szczerba, who shared CEO duties with Burelle, will take on an advisory role after 34 years with the company. Burelle’s daughter Felicie Burelle was named managing director and will work alongside Favre.

In addition, COO Paul Henry Lemarie is leaving his post after 39 years with Plastic Omnium, the company said, but will continue as a director and the chief operating officer of Burelle SA, the family holding company that holds a majority of Plastic Omnium shares.

Laurent Burelle, a billionaire whose family built the company into one of the largest global suppliers of fuel systems and exterior panels and modules, said the moves were necessary to ensure long-term growth “by seizing opportunities related to the transformation of the automotive market.”  He will remain chairman and CEO of Burelle SA.

Favre, 48, was most recently a managing director at ABB, the Swiss-Swedish maker of robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology. Before that he held executive positions at Benteler Automotive, the German supplier of exhaust systems, chassis components and other products, starting as an executive vice president then becoming COO and CEO. He has also worked at ThyssenKrupp and ZF Friedrichshafen.

Favre and Felicie Burelle, 40, will take up their new positions on Jan. 1, 2020. She started her career at Plastic Omnium in Spain, then worked for consultant EY before returning to the family business, where she has held a number of executive management positions.

“It’s important to put in place a management team that can take Plastic Omnium through the next 20 years,” Laurent Burelle said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, noting that he would be 70 years old next week. Burelle added that Favre’s experience with German suppliers would be an advantage for Plastic Omnium, which does 43 percent of its business with German automakers.

2018 was a transition year for Plastic Omnium, as it sold off its plastics container business to become a pure automotive player. The company also bought out Mahle’s 33.3 percent stake in the HPBO front-end module joint venture.

Plastic Omnium is now organized around two main businesses: Plastic Omnium Industries, which makes exterior panels and trim as well as fuel system components such as tanks and filters; and Plastic Omnium Modules.

The French supplier is implementing an aggressive program of capital expenditures, with investments rising 26 percent in 2018 to 561 million euros ($617 million). Major projects include two plants to supply BMW, one in Shenyang, China, and the other in Greer, South Carolina in the U.S. Plants are also under construction in China, India, Malaysia, Morocco and Slovakia.

Plastic Omnium is also starting up a joint venture with Hella that will combine exterior systems and lighting; a project with the German supplier Brose for new side-door system; and Plastic Omnium New Energies, a business unit that will develop future energy systems, including fuel cells and hydrogen propulsion.

Based outside of Paris, Plastic Omnium ranks 27th on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with 2018 sales to automakers of $9.74 billion.

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